Canon A630 Review

 
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Canon A630 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly oversaturated color (especially reds and blues), very typical of consumer digital cameras. Generally good hue accuracy.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The Canon A630 follows this trend, but the result you see at right is tempered from what we used to call "Canon color." That was never an insult, by the way, just a tendency to oversaturate colors like red and blue in a way that made for a beautiful image with somewhat clipped colors on occasion. We're happy to see it dialed back a bit, and also glad that the images still look great. Oversaturation is a big problem with Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. The A630 did render skin tones a bit on the pink side in most cases, but the images are still appealing.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Here, the Canon A630 did quite well. Like most digicams, it shifts cyan colors toward blue, to produce better-looking sky colors, but the rest of the hues were quite accurate.

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Unusually close results between Auto and Incandescent white balance settings, with Auto only slightly warm, and Incandescent only slightly cool.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image
Auto White Balance +1.0EV Incandescent WB +1.0EV

Color balance indoors under Auto was slightly warm, and Incandescent mode was just a bit cool; both were still pleasing. The Canon A630 required a +1.0 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure. Overall color well-balanced and hue accurate. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulb, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S. The A630 handled this very yellow light source quite well.

Outdoors, daylight
Good color balance, very bright colors. Better than average exposure accuracy.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image
Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure

Outdoor shots generally showed accurate exposure with less a tendency to blow out highlights than I'm used to seeing. Shadow detail also tended to hold up pretty well for a consumer digicam. Exposure accuracy overall was better than average, the camera requiring less exposure compensation than I'm accustomed to seeing with consumer digicams.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,300 lines of strong detail.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
Strong detail to 1,300 lines horizontal Strong detail to 1,300 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,300 lines per picture height, with extinction at around 1,400. (The camera did produce slight color artifacts at lower line frequencies though, visible in the full-sized res target shots.) Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Our interpretation of this standard is somewhat conservative. We watch for artifacts and color fringing then move back to the nearest pure part of the scale. In our opinion, detail with artifacts shouldn't be considered detail. You may see other numbers quoted elsewhere, but across the site, our reviews judge this parameter by the same conservative standard.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Fairly sharp images, with some blurring of detail from noise suppression.

Very good definition of high-contrast elements. Observe the pine needles at the top, left of center. Normally that's just a fuzz. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.

The Canon A630's images are reasonably sharp, without strong over-sharpening or significant edge enhancement on the camera's part. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop at far right shows this, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing only limited detail, even though individual strands are quite visible against her cheek in the uncropped image. The level of detail loss shown here isn't all that obvious on prints 8x10 inches or smaller, though, and this is quite a tight crop. This is a very good performance.

ISO & Noise Performance
No noticeable noise at normal sensitivity settings, which naturally increases at 400 and 800.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200
Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
ISO 400 ISO 800

The Canon A630's sensitivity ranges from ISO 80 to 800 equivalents. Up to ISO 200, the PowerShot produced very little noise, with only slightly blurred detail in the dark areas. At ISO 400 and especially at 800, the noise level and the amount of blurring that results increases, but the images are still quite usable. The Canon A630's noise levels are lower than average for its class. At ISO 800, skin tones tend to purple a bit, but not nearly as bad as we've seen on other brands and models of camera.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, though high contrast and limited shadow detail. Pretty good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and slightly darker conditions.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
+0.3EV:
Too dark: Shirt is okay, but skin tones are way too dark
+0.7EV:
Good: Shirt retains good detail with only minor clipping in the highlights, good skin tone without too much highlight.
+1.0EV:
Too bright: Shirt is blown out, and highlights dominate the face. Note eyes are still quite dark.

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Canon A630 had a little trouble with the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very high contrast with deep shadows. We chose the +0.7EV adjusted image as the better choice, for the reasons stated above. Noise suppression is visible in both shadows and highlights as well, but plenty of detail is still evident. Exposure at least did not wash out the highlights when exposure compensation was set to zero adjustment. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
79
Click to see A630LL0803.jpg
2 sec
f3.0
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4 sec
f3.0
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9.9 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL0806.jpg
16 sec
f2.9
Click to see A630LL0807.jpg
16 sec
f2.9
ISO
100
Click to see A630LL1003.jpg
1.6 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL1004.jpg
3.2 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL1005.jpg
8 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL1006.jpg
12.6 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL1007.jpg
16 sec
f2.9
ISO
200
Click to see A630LL2003.jpg
0.8 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL2004.jpg
1.6 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL2005.jpg
4 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL2006.jpg
6.3 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL2007.jpg
16 sec
f3.0
ISO
400
Click to see A630LL4003.jpg
0.4 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL4004.jpg
0.8 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL4005.jpg
2 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL4006.jpg
3.2 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL4007.jpg
8 sec
f3.0
ISO
800
Click to see A630LL8003.jpg
1/5 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL8004.jpg
0.4 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL8005.jpg
1 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL8006.jpg
1.6 sec
f3.0
Click to see A630LL8007.jpg
4 sec
f3.0

Low light:
The Canon PowerShot A630 did very well in our low light tests, producing bright images at the lowest light levels at ISO 200 and above. At ISO 80 and 100, images were bright down to the 1/8 foot-candle level, about 1/8 as bright as average city street lighting at night. The one limitation though, is that you have to resort to Shutter Priority or Manual exposure mode to get exposure times longer than 1 second. As seen by the type in even the darkest images, the auto focus system worked well, relying on its AF assist lamp to find focus at the very darkest levels, but was also able to focus down at a bit less than 1/4 foot-candle without resorting to the AF assist. Given that typical city street-lighting at night is about one foot-candle (the brightest level shown in the test above), the Canon A630 should have no trouble handling the after-dark photography needs of most consumers.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
The A630's small flash has a limited range, produces a slight blue cast in combination with typical incandescent room lighting. Our standard shots required more exposure compensation than average.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
35mm equivalent 140mm equivalent Normal Flash +1.0 EV

Flash coverage was rather uneven at wide angle but very good at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the flash on the Canon A630 underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get reasonably bright results.

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see A630FL06W.jpg
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL07W.jpg
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL08W.jpg
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL09W.jpg
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL10W.jpg
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL11W.jpg
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see A630FL12W.jpg
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL13W.jpg
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL14W.jpg
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL15W.jpg
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL16W.jpg
1/64 sec
f2.9
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see A630FL06T.jpg
1/64 sec
f4.2
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL07T.jpg
1/64 sec
f4.2
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL08T.jpg
1/64 sec
f4.2
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL09T.jpg
1/64 sec
f4.2
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL10T.jpg
1/64 sec
f4.2
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL11T.jpg
1/64 sec
f4.2
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see A630FL12T.jpg
1/64 sec
f4.2
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL13T.jpg
1/64 sec
f4.2
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL14T.jpg
1/64 sec
f4.2
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL15T.jpg
1/64 sec
f4.2
ISO 100
Click to see A630FL16T.jpg
1/64 sec
f4.2
ISO 100

Even at 16 feet, our most distant test range, the flash did illuminate the DaveBox target adequately. This agrees with camera's own spec of 14 feet for flash range, on the long side for a compact camera model.

Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see A630FL_MFR014WAXXXX.jpg
14 feet Auto ISO
Click to see A630FL_MFR010TAXXXX.jpg
10 feet Auto ISO

Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We now also capture two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims. In the shots above, the A630 seems to perform exactly as Canon says it will, producing good exposures at the rated distances with its ISO set to Auto. While the range is rather limited, the good news here is that the camera doesn't seem to be significantly boosting its ISO. This would produce greater flash range, but at the cost of higher image noise, and the noise levels from the Canon A630 seem quite acceptable.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Excellent print quality, great color, very usable 16x20 inch prints! ISO 800 images are quite usable at 8x10, excellent at 5x7 and smaller.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

The Canon A630 made surprisingly good 16x20 inch prints at ISO 80 and 100. That's a big print. ISO 200 prints were better at 13x19 and smaller, and ISO 400 prints were still quite good at 11x14. Though some might accept ISO 800 prints at 11x14, we think 8x10 is a little better, though the color is a little more subdued. Drop the size to 5x7 and you really don't even notice that it's shot at ISO 800, except for the slightly darker colors. Quite an impressive performance from the Canon A630, almost identical to the 10 megapixel A640.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot A630 Photo Gallery.

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!

Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon PowerShot A630 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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